Big Match Focus: Arsenal vs CSKA Moscow

Arsenal continue in their quest to try and qualify for next season’s UEFA Champions League by winning the Europa League when they face Russia’s CSKA Moscow in Thursday’s quarter-final first leg in London.

Europa League
Date: 5 April 2018
Game-week: Quarter-final first leg
Kick-off: 20:05 (local time)

Venue: Emirates Stadium
Referee: P. Kralovec
Assistants: R. Slysko, I. Nádvorník

Fourth official: J. Paták

Head-to-head summary:


Arsenal 2 0 1 1
Liverpool 2 1 1 0

Previous encounter:

Arsenal 0-0 CSKA Moscow (1 November 2006) Champions League

Players to watch:

The match could be a big chance for Alexandre Lacazette to shine especially in the absence of Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang who is cup-tied. The France striker has come back from injury and showed some glimpses of his best form in the 3-0 win over Stoke City in the Premier League. With a solid but largely underwhelming first season in English football under his belt, the striker may need to deliver a big performance for the Gunners to prove his worth.

Pontus Wernbloom could be the man for the big occasion for the Russian visitors as the forward has scored some important goals in recent weeks for Krasno-sinie. He got the winning goal against Olympique Lyonnais in the last round of the competition, and also hit the winner against Rostov to secure all three points in their previous Russian Premier League clash. The 31-year-old could be one to watch out for on Thursday.

Team form and manager quotes:

Having recorded four wins in a row in all competitions including an impressive 5-1 win over AC Milan in the last round, the Gunners are finally starting to hit some morale-boosting form after some deflating displays this season.

With the only route into the Champions League in 2018/19 available if the London side win the Europa League, continuing to produce their best form against the Russian visitors will be key in the English capital.

Manager Arsene Wenger said: “There’s some extra pressure on us to do extremely well in this competition but that’s part of being where we are.

“We have to see it in a way it’s an opportunity we want to take and keep the priorities right and of course focus on how well we play together, how we want to play.”

Meanwhile, Moscow are still in the race for their domestic title as they trail leaders Lokomotiv Moscow by five points in the Russian Premier League standings.

Boss Viktor Goncharenko men have also recorded four wins on the bounce in all competitions although one game was a club friendly against Ryazan. With that said, Goncharenko’s charges did beat Lyon in the last round on away goals after a 3-3 drew.

The Belarusian coach told reporters he was respectful of players like fellow countryman Henrikh Mkhitaryan, but had a plan to stop Arsenal.

He told Sport Express: “I know Mkhitaryan’s abilities very well. We will make maximum efforts to neutralize not solely Henrikh, but the entire attacking line of the opponent.”

Team news:

Petr Cech is likely to miss out with a groin strain and David Ospina seems the obvious choice to start in goal. Otherwise the home side boast virtually a clean bill of health though Danny Welbeck did pick up a minor knock to his back in the win over Stoke. Aubameyang is not available as he is cup-tied.

For Moscow, Viktor Vasin is likely out for the rest of the season with a cruciate ligament injury while midfielder Astemir Gordyushenko also plays no part with a meniscus concern. In addition, Mario Fernandes is doubtful with a hamstring issue and Kirill Nababkin is suspended.